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Instant Analysis: Gators use big night from Locke to get back in win column

December 18, 2018
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. | The Florida Gators (6-4) were back in action following a 10-day break after their loss to then-No. 10 Michigan State. On Tuesday night, with the help of the long ball, the Gators defeated the Mercer Bears (4-7) 71-63. 

Instant Analysis takes a closer look at the victory.

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IT WAS OVER WHEN: Noah Locke connected on his fifth triple of the night to put the Gators back up eight with just over 11-minutes remaining. The next two possessions Isaiah Stokes connected with back-to-back lay-ins to push the Gators lead to 12. Mercer fought the entire 40 minutes, but it seemed to be in the Gators control after extending the lead to a dozen.  

WHO STOLE THE SHOW: Sophomore guard Ross Cummings was Mercer’s leading scorer coming into tonight's contest and he certainly showed fans his talented skill set. The 6-foot-3 guard entered averaging 13.5 points per game and 41-percent from beyond the arc. Tonight, the Dickson (Tenn.) native wowed all of Gainesville with his ability to pull up from deep and fire on all cylinders. Cummings finished the night with 18 points on 4-12 shooting from deep.  

It was a three-point shootout between Cummings and Florida guard Noah Locke. The freshman guard has certainly stepped his game up since entering the starting lineup earlier in the season. Whether it was off the dribble or off a pass, Locke was dialed in tonight as he connected on five three pointers and finished with 18 points. Locke’s one of the purest shooters on this basketball team and Florida will need for him to continue to show out in games for them to make a run in conference play.  

THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE: Florida’s inability to control the glass and dominate the low post has contributed to several of their losses this season. However, tonight, the numbers didn’t lie. Mercer’s starting lineup included four guards and just one interior presence, who only stands at 6-feet-7-inches. The height and length advantage certainly was in the Gators’ corner for this one and the stat sheet shows it. The Gators had a rebound differential of plus-four and recorded five more blocks than the Bears. Florida also tallied 22 points in the paint tonight. 

Florida’s defense is a large reason for the Gators success this season. Florida, again, held their opponent well under their season average mark in terms of scoring the basketball. Entering Exactech Arena, Mercer averaged 76 points per game, but were limited to just 63 points on Tuesday night. The Bears exploited Florida and their perimeter defense early, connecting on five of their first 10 three-pointers. However, as the game moved along, Florida’s defense settled in, only allowing two more triples on thirteen attempts from the Bears.  

BOTTOM LINE: The bottom line is with just two games remaining in non-conference play, Florida has a chance to finish the first portion of the schedule strong with games against Florida Gulf Coast and Butler coming up soon. Florida continues to put a high number of shots up each game (57 shots vs Mercer) but continue to struggle to put the ball in the hoop at an effective rate. Florida will need more of these shots to drop to contend with the top-tier teams in the conference.  

Florida’s defense was also stellar tonight for a majority of the game. Their ability to get opposing team's offenses uncomfortable is one-way Florida can stay in games despite poor shooting nights. The defense will need to continue to play at a high level this season if Florida wants to generate any noise in the SEC.  

UP NEXT: Florida (6-4) will head down to Sunrise (Fla.) this weekend to participate in the Orange Bowl Classic. The Gators will meet the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (4-8) on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. As non-conference play begins to wind down, Florida is looking for a good win on a neutral site. 

Instant Analysis: Gators use big night from Locke to get back in win column

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